The role of military in the event of a political deadlock and serious confrontation between political parties has always been crucial and continues to remain so. General Kayani during the last few days in his frequent meetings with the top political leadership must be expressing his deep concern about the unfolding events and remains a sobering influence. The army chief’s current role indicates that he genuinely believes that answer to the current crisis does not lie in army’s direct intervention.
The military is engaged in counterinsurgency operations in FATA and Swat. External factors also do not favour army’s direct involvement in governance. In addition there is the continued hostility with India.
The reputation of General Kayani is very high in sharp contrast to the low image and unpopularity of his predecessor. His nuanced and calibrated approach in the present crisis could influence the political outcome and yet not involve the army in a direct political role. Success of democracy would be in the interest of the nation and the institutional interest of the army.
President Zardari’s arbitrary and authoritarian method of governance is untenable. The decision to dismiss the Punjab government was ill conceived, badly timed and has acted as a trigger for the present upheaval. It may well turn out to be President Zardari’s political waterloo. President Zardari has yet to demonstrate if he is capable of running the affairs of the state. Regrettably, he has surrounded himself with people who have limited political base, are essentially self-seekers who lack the acumen to provide institutional support and guidance in major national decision making.
The president is expected to be a unifying force instead he has become a divisive and polarised institutional head. His initial decision to hold the dual hats of the august position of president and the chairman of the PPP party is a major contradiction in terms and a clear case of conflict of interest. President Zardari also has to allow the parliament and the cabinet to assert their constitutional authority. The fault of our leaders is their authoritarian attitude and absence of political culture.
The media revolution, process of globalisation and especially lawyers’ movement has brought an extraordinary awareness in the people of Pakistan. Pakistan’s steep political degeneration, lack of political culture and economic decline has given rise to serious doubts about our leaders’ capacity to govern.
United States and the rest of the world are greatly concerned about the situation in Pakistan and are pressing both PPP and PML (N) to reach a compromise. For them the stakes in Pakistan’s stability are very high. The current confrontation is a huge distraction and is taking away the focus from insurgencies and from keeping pressure on militants. As a consequence Washington perceives that its interests in the region are being compromised and alarm bells are being raised. Even UN secretary general has lent his voice advising the political parties to find a way out of this impasse through dialogue. United States realises that promotion of democracy and building institutions in Pakistan would be in its long term interest as no democratic country has been its enemy or of the West. But in the short term, security interests dominate its policy towards Pakistan. The end game of the war against radical Islam is being fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The current crisis is a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability that allows Taliban and Al-Qaeda to expand their influence in our tribal belt and in Afghanistan, and the war against them drags on.
Experience has shown that democracy has been the best weapon against neutralising radicalism. US efforts should be aimed at consolidating democracy and not that much reliance on supporting individuals. In the final analysis if the lawyers/civil society movement were to succeed it could be a potential countervailing force against radical groups as well.